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Guest blog: incredible - and edible

Urban Pollinators' Julian Dobson on why community growing projects are Kingdom of God stuff

A couple of months ago I was sitting in an Indian restaurant in the north of England with several dozen people, many of them complete strangers, who’d come to talk about vegetables. And it wasn’t the annual meeting of the allotment association’s prize leek growers.

Opposite me was a guy called Jean-Michel from northern France who’d been the driving force behind nearly 300 community growing projects that are sprouting up (excuse the metaphor) faster than you can sauté an onion. On one side was a Baptist minister pioneering new forms of doing church in the middle of Salford.

I asked her why as a minister she had got so excited about Incredible Edible Todmorden, the local food movement that’s changing the way many communities think about what they eat and the places they live in. ‘It’s Kingdom of God stuff,’ she replied.

She wasn’t just referencing the fact that the Bible is chock-full of food references. It might have had more to do with the theme of the banquet that runs throughout its story: the idea of abundance, sharing and a welcome to all.

Incredible Edible Todmorden isn’t a Christian organisation. Neither do the various members of the Incredible Edible Network who were meeting in that restaurant espouse a particular creed. But as my Baptist friend said, there’s something there that many Christians recognise as deeply connected with their faith.

The Incredible Edible movement started six years ago with the actions of Mary Clear a woman who ripped out her rose garden, replanted it with vegetables and posted a notice reading ‘grow your own – or share this stuff’ (see photo above). It started too with a man who began ‘propaganda planting’ in unloved public spaces, including the derelict health centre where mass murderer Harold Shipman used to practise.

From those small but very public beginnings, it’s taking root across the world, from Montreal to Mali. In Todmorden, where it started, there is now a ‘green route’ creating a new sense of place and identity in the town, there’s a brand new aquaponics centre at the local high school, and there’s an Incredible Farm training apprentices and teaching kids.

That’s why we’re writing a book about the Incredible Edible effect. In true Todmorden spirit we’re crowdfunding the resources to publish it – you can read more about it at the Kickstarter website. As they say in Todmorden, if you eat, you’re in.

Julian Dobson is director of Urban Pollinators, based in Sheffield

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